Plan to fine truants criticized

A plan to make staying away from school a city ordinance violation ran into criticism at the Evanston Human Services Committee meeting this week.

Community activist Betty Sue Ester objected to involving police with the problem of trying to keep children in school.

"Once a child touches that department there’s a record, it’s put into the system somewhere," Ester said, suggesting it could come back to haunt youngsters later if they try to get into college or as they pursue a career.

"There’s no criminal law that you have to be in school every day, you don’t go to jail for that, so why are they being handed over to the police department?" she added.

Ester, of 2030 Church St., who’s long been active in police-community relations issues, said, "Unless you can give parents a good reason, this is a bad ordinance to even consider. Look at the kids this is going to be hitting, we’re talking about minority, black males."

The proposed ordinance, developed by a group called the Evanston Restorative Justice Committee, met a cool reception from aldermen when it was discussed at the Human Services Committee in July.

It’s scheduled to be on the committee’s agenda again when it meets in January. The committee chairman, Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste said he hoped "all the parties will be here to engage in debate" about the ordinance then.

The proposed ordinance would make chronic truants subject to a fine of up to $100 and would permit school officials to issue violation notices.

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